Going into the ninth inning of Wichita State’s game against Evansville Friday night, Head Coach Todd Butler planned to take senior Zach Lewis out of the game. In the final home start of his collegiate career, Lewis had other plans.
“He wanted to close out the game,” Butler said. “We were going to take him out as a senior, but he came in after the eighth inning and said ‘this is my game’ so we let him finish.”
Lewis threw 106 pitches and recorded eight strikeouts in the complete game three-hit shutout as WSU topped the Purple Aces 6-0.
“I still felt good stamina and felt like I had complete control of the game and just wanted to save the bullpen and give the team everything I had,” Lewis said.
He attributed his dominance to the success of his sinker.
“I just made them hit the sinker and put it in play on the ground and just get quick outs,” Lewis said.
The Shockers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth, but the offensive breakthrough came in the fifth on a four-run inning highlighted by junior Trey Vickers’ two-run double into the right field corner.
Freshman catcher Noah Croft, who reached base in every plate appearance on the night, said the offense benefited greatly from Lewis’ pitching.
“It’s huge when we get a few runs because then you know Zach’s going to go out there and dominate,” Croft said.
Evansville’s best scoring threat started in the top of the sixth with two outs when Lewis hit Craig Shepard to extend the inning. He then surrendered a single and a walk to load the bases before Pitching Coach Mike Steele came out for a mound visit.
Steele’s visit set Lewis straight as he jumped ahead in the count 0-2 on Travis Tokarek before eventually getting him to fly out to end the inning.
WSU added another run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly from freshman Alex Jackson to stretch the lead to 6-0 heading into the ninth.
Lewis, who became the first Shocker pitcher to go more than seven innings this season, was determined to finish off the game on his own, especially after his last start at Dallas Baptist when he saw a six-run lead evaporate after throwing seven scoreless innings.
“We were up six to nothing and we gave up six runs, so I don’t think he wanted to give the ball up to anyone else,” Butler said.
Lewis began the ninth with a strikeout looking before allowing just his third hit of the day—a single to right which gave Evansville one more opportunity to put a run on the board.
However, a line drive off the bat of Tokarek was snagged by sophomore second baseman Jordan Boyer, and his throw to first doubled off the runner to seal the victory and the shutout.
The Shockers will be in action again at 2:00 Saturday when they go for the series victory over Evansville at Eck Stadium.